A waterspout zipped across Baltimore harbor Monday afternoon, tossing pieces of a warehouse roof into the air, and at least one other tornado was reported in the area as storms brought heavy downpours and flooding.
In Fells Point, cars sat in standing water and sandbags were placed at doors to prevent water from entering businesses. In the Inner Harbor, 1.74 inches of rain had fallen by 5 p.m. — all but a half-inch of it in the span of an hour before 4 p.m.
Steve Fogleman, a Glen Burnie attorney and chairman of the Baltimore liquor board, was driving north on Interstate 95 just south of the Fort McHenry tunnel a little before 4 p.m. when he noticed a rotating cloud and something whipping through the air near Silo Point.
"It looked like birds at first, but then I realized the way they were behaving did not look like birds," Fogleman said. "It looked like sheets of vinyl siding."
Mathieu Lafleur, a crane operator at Rukert Terminals, said he watched the spout — another name for a tornado that moves over water — tear debris from a warehouse in Locust Point before moving across the water to Canton.
"I was about 80 feet up in the air and watched the whole thing from the beginning," Lafleur said. "It looked farther away and then it made a turn toward us and that's when it took off that roof."
Maryland Port Administration officials confirmed that a section of roof from a 300,000-square-foot warehouse on McComas Street was torn off. The building's sprinkler system also was damaged. The warehouse holds large paper rolls used for magazines and advertising circulars.
Only about 5 percent of the roof's surface area was missing, port spokesman Richard Scher said. No one was injured.
Another tornado, which destroyed a shed near a home, was reported in western Howard County later Monday night. The Howard County fire department said two people inside the home, in the 3200 block of Starting Gate Road in Woodbine, were not injured when the shed outside their home was ruined about 7 p.m.
Carroll and Baltimore county officials said they had no reports of damage or injuries from the evening tornado.
Another potential tornado was reported near Kingsville in Baltimore County earlier Monday afternoon. The National Weather Service received reports of tree and structural damage near Fork United Methodist Church on Fork Road.
The weather service's Baltimore/Washington forecast office, in Sterling, Va., plans to survey damage today to confirm any tornadoes .
Downpours meanwhile inundated many areas. Floodwaters up to a foot deep forced the closure of the intersection of Dundalk Avenue and Bullneck Road in Dundalk, according to a report the weather service received. In Baltimore, the Key Highway exit from southbound Interstate 95 was briefly closed late Monday because of high water. At My Thai restaurant in Fells Point, sandbags were laid at the entrance as water rushed through Central Avenue.
At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, 0.71 inches of rain had fallen as of 5 p.m. That followed the 2.25 inches of rain that fell as Tropical Storm Andrea and its remnants passed through three days earlier. Normal June rainfall at BWI is about 3.5 inches.
The stormy weather came as a cold front approached from the west, meeting moist air over the region as a warm front moved north.
Tornadoes are relatively common in rural parts of Maryland, with about 10 statewide each year, according to the Weather Channel, but they are rarer in the city. A tornado touched down twice in central Baltimore on July 19, 1996, producing a swirl of dirt and trash, according to the weather service. Another damaged rowhouses and trees in West Baltimore on Nov. 1, 1994.
A waterspout was spotted in the Baltimore harbor Aug. 26, 1946, moving inland across East Baltimore and dissipating near Dundalk, according to the weather service.
Two tornadoes were reported on different days in May 1937. The first, on May 6 on Northern Parkway near Hamilton, unroofed a building and ripped slate from another. The second struck May 26, damaging trees in Clifton and Patterson parks and ripping roofs off homes and two water towers, demolishing sheds, damaging cars and knocking down utility poles.